Dieses Blog durchsuchen

Dienstag, 17. Mai 2011

Part 13 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

Time Travel Along the 2nd Avenue

The 2nd Avenue leads to the 3rd Gopura and to the King’s palace, the largest building of Preah Vihear. The palace is aligned along the East-West axis, thus forming along with the North-South avenues a huge cross. 

The 2nd avenue takes after the 1st avenue, cobbled with cut sandstones and on both sides aligned with pillars resembling lotus buds. The thirsty traveller finds mongers offering water, Cola, Black Label and the addicted finds cigarettes, mainly Malboro.


The Khmer Empire reached its first peak during the reign of King Suryavarman II (1113 – 1150). By then Ankor Wat, the power centre, was enlarged significantly. Preah Vihear was extended with the King’s palace at the end of the 2nd avenue. The Khmers ruled over a huge geography we call today Thailand, Laos and parts of Burma and Vietnam. Some historians claim that the Khmers even reached North Malaysia via Phuket.   

red: Khmer Empire

The geography was not deserted of course. The Mon in Thailand and Burma might have resisted ineffectively, they are not known as a military power or people in arms. Instead they blended their own Buddhist culture with the Hindu culture of the Khmers, other than the Cham in Laos and Vietnam, the still archenemy of the Khmers at that time. 802 AD, the date of the liberation from the Cham, is celebrated as the birthday of the Khmer nation. The Cham never gave up really, never got over their defeat. They overran Ankor Wat after the death of King Suryavarman II in 1177 AD and hit the Khmer empire at its very heart. 


Shortly before the 3rd Gopura a small slightly tilted building sits under the shade of a tree. It used to host a Shiva lingam presumably. The empty Cola tins inside are not forgotten rubbish but leftovers of a ritual praising Lord Shiva, who is still alive in the minds of the Khmers today. 


The Khmers recovered and rose to the supreme power again. King Jayavarman VII (1181 – 1218) expanded Ankor Wat and other Khmer Prasat (palaces) to the shape we can still admire today. Cleverly devised irrigation systems with countless water canals and ponds allowed for up to three rice harvests per year. Modern historians estimate that the area around Ankor Wat could easily feed almost one million people. The mix of peoples must have been impressive. People from all around the Khmer empire assembled there. They made up the richness of this vast Kingdom. The more people a Kingdom could accumulate the more powerful it was. Gaggles of farmers cared for the nourishment, tens of thousand of soldiers for defence and further extensions of the empire, not to forget the thousands of masons, carpenters, construction workers, architects and artists.          

End of the 2nd Avenue and 3rd Gopura

Preah Vihear was not an advanced outpost with just a Shiva lingam any more, but second to Ankor Wat a central and important part of the Khmer kingdom. Like other prasat (palaces) it was connected by partially cobbled roads leading to Ankor Wat. The analogy to Rome pops up in someone’s mind. “All roads lead to Ankor Wat”  

But even at the zenith of the Khmer empire an old prophecy still weighted heavily on the shoulders of this ancient nation during the 12th and 13th century AD…

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, April 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned... 

Keine Kommentare:

Kommentar veröffentlichen